Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

What does a Newborn Baby Look Like?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

You Should Expect Scratches, Red Spots or Even Bruises Right After Delivery

A newborn may look a little strange right after birth.

A healthy newborn may look a little strange in the beginning. Before a child is born, it is in the uterus, surrounded by liquid. Your baby is also curled-up because there’s not too much space left to move around anymore. In addition, babies born during vaginal births have to squeeze through a small passage. All of these types of things contribute to a newborn baby’s appearance.

Skin

Newborns are born with a thick white substance all over them, as well as blood and fluid from their mother. This washes away during your child’s first bath.

A healthy newborn also normally has pink skin. Occasionally, a baby’s skin may look kind of blue, most commonly around the lips, as well as the feet and hands. All of this is perfectly normal.

Your child may also have some scratches, red spots or bruises after delivery. The scratches and bruises may have been caused by what’s called a fetal probe. This is what doctors use to help monitor your baby during delivery. Some newborn babies also have small bumps or spots similar to acne. These will eventually go away. You may even notice a birthmark, which may fade with time but usually is permanent.

Face

A newborn's face sometimes has a squished or swollen look right after delivery. However, your child’s face should be even, or rather symmetrical, when you look at both sides. Your baby’s nose and mouth are full of mucus, which the doctor or nurse needs to suction out immediately after birth.

Head

A newborn baby’s head normally looks kind of big in comparison with the rest of its body. The head may also appear cone-shaped or pointy if you had a vaginal delivery. Your baby’s head should look normal after a few days. Newborn babies also normally have a number of soft spots on their heads where their bones still need to grow together fully.

While some babies don’t have any hair, others have a lot. Many times, a baby’s hair will fall out over the first month and new hair will replace it.

Neck

Your newborn’s neck should be lump-free and smooth. Some newborns have their neck twisted to one side because of the position they were in inside the womb. Doctors call this torticollis or wry neck. There are certain treatments to help straighten out a child’s neck when this happens.

Genitals

A baby’s genitals are often swollen or puffy right after delivery. Sometimes, girl babies have vaginal discharge that is white or even bloody. This is caused by the mother’s hormones. It’s normal and goes away.

As for boys, the skin that covers the tip of the penis, or the foreskin, shouldn’t be pulled back, and is normally tight. If you want to have your baby circumcised, surgery will remove this skin.

Belly and Chest

You may see some swelling in your baby’s breasts. You may even notice some milky fluid. This is due to hormones from the mother. The leaking or swelling normally goes away over the next few days or even weeks.

A newborn baby’s belly usually sticks out some, and is usually round. Once the umbilical cord is cut, you’ll notice the small stump where your child’s belly button is. Your nurse will tell you how to take care of this. The stump normally falls off over the next week or two.

Legs and Arms

Your newborn may want to keep its legs and arms close to his or her body, and bent as if they were back in your womb. You want to make sure their legs and arms move the same amount on both sides.

Right after your baby is born, your nurse or doctor will check these things:

  • Check genitals to see whether baby is a boy or girl

  • Check body’s movement and position

  • Check skin color

  • Measure baby’s length, weight and head

  • Check baby’s body to make sure everything is normal

  • Check baby’s organs to make sure everything is working correctly

Can the Nurse or Doctor tell if my Baby is Healthy?

It’s difficult to know just by looking at a newborn baby whether the child is healthy. However, your nurse or doctor will check for certain things. These include the size, appearance and position of certain body parts. These things can be signs of other health issues. This makes it extremely important that a nurse or doctor sees your baby after delivery.


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